As adept as Thomas McGuane has been through the years with a rod in his hand, he's even more skillful with his pen. Join the two like tippet to leader, and the result's as irresistible as a Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear in the middle of a Hendrickson hatch.
For The Longest Silence, McGuane has trolled his inventory and assembled 33 essays written over three decades. Passionate, meditative, personal, and often very funny, they are filled with fellowship and connected by his love of angling. The title piece, a certified classic in the sporting genre, chronicles his quest for the elusive permit. Since permit is about the hardest fish to catch on a fly, the expected futility of not catching one hooks McGuane's introspection, and he weighs in with trophy prose: "What is emphatic in angling is made so by the long silences--the unproductive periods. For the ardent fisherman, progress is towards the kinds of fishing that are never productive in the sense of the blood riots of the hunting-and-fishing periodicals. Their illusions of continuous action evoke for him, finally, a condition of utter, mortuary boredom."
That's McGuane on angling in a nutshell; he knows the real action is internal. Whether he's casting for salmon in Russia ("Fly-Fishing the Evil Empire"), bonefish in the Florida Keys ("Close to the Bone"), or trout in Ireland ("Back in Ireland"), the catch is secondary to the pursuit, and the pursuit has as much to do with making sense of self and the universe as it does with anything aswim in a river. "When you get to the water you will be renewed," he assures. "Leave as much behind as possible. Those motives to screw your boss or employees, cheat on your spouse, rob the state, or humiliate your companions will not serve you well if you expect to be restored in the eyes of God, fish, and the river, which will reward you with hollow waste if you don't behave. You may be cursed. You may be shriven. You may be drowned. At the very least, you may snap off your fly in the bushes." McGuane clearly wades in with honest intentions; in The Longest Silence he casts cleanly to his target again and again. --Jeff Silverman
From Publishers Weekly
Novelist McGuane (Nothing but Blue Skies, etc.) celebrates everything about angling in this collection of 33 essays, which is certain to entertain fellow enthusiasts and fans of his writing. Any notion that fishing is humdrum is dispelled when McGuane describes eloquently his lifelong love affair with the sport, from the joys of tying flies and testing different rods, to sharing ghost stories and observational gems with fellow anglers, to absorbing quietly life's mysteries. He puts into historical and literary context the classic fishing writings of Izaak Walton and Roderick Haig-Brown. Throughout, McGuane's awe at nature's splendor shines in his prose. Releasing a trout after catching it becomes a moment of reverence: "Suddenly the fish was there, its spotted back breaking the surface, then up showering streamers of silver from the mesh of the net.... I stood in the river for a long while, holding him into the current and feeling the increasing strength in a kicking tail I could barely encompass with my grip. To the north, the Aurora Austral raised a curtain of fire in the cold sky. My trout kicked free and continued his journey to the Andes." Such moments emphasize McGuane's call for preserving the world's rivers from overdevelopment. Whether he's fishing for trout in a beaver pond in Michigan, salmon in Iceland or tarpon in Key West, McGuane casts not only his fishing line, but also his magic at turning a precise phrase and evoking a delightful image. (Nov.)
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